Campaign underway to house St. J artifactsBy CHARLOTTE ALBRIGHT
Vermont Public Radio | January 11,2014ST. JOHNSBURY — More than 5,000 artifacts telling the story of St. Johnsbury’s history may finally find a home, if supporters can raise enough money to buy a Victorian mansion in the heart of town.
The collection is no longer wanted by the Fairbanks Museum, but the museum says it will store it until a better home is found. History buffs are optimistic that the relics will get a second chance in an ideal location.
In 1830, Thaddeus Fairbanks, of St. Johnsbury, built the first platform scale, a keystone of industrial development in the 19th century. Want to see the wagon that brought the family to St. J? How about a complete collection of ice cutting tools? Unfortunately, those and thousands of other touchstones of the town’s early days are in storage. But now an all-volunteer group has found a historic house where it hopes to display them — if it can raise the money to buy the site.
To attract donations to the St. Johnsbury History and Heritage Center, the group has placed a tiny fraction of the collection on display in the vacant yellow frame mansion.
“We have framed pictures of the Handy family that used to cut ice both in Lyndonville and St. Johnsbury, and we coupled those pictures with some of the other artifacts to try to tell the story of this bone-chilling profession,” Executive Director Peggy Pearl says while showing off a sun-filled room with gleaming glass cases.
An ice tong leans against an ornate fireplace. In other elegant rooms, cabinets hold 19th-century curiosities — a postal scale, a souvenir plate, a food chopper. Eventually, Pearl hopes to fill these spaces with everyday objects from the bygone era of this once-affluent town, and to hold classes here. Bigger treasures, like a child’s hearse and a popcorn wagon, would be displayed in the adjacent carriage barn. But first her group needs to raise $250,000 to buy the property from a law firm that has relocated.
“We’re hopeful that we will be able to take over this house because it’s in a move-in condition, as you can see today,” she says.
She stands in the entrance hall beside a cardboard thermometer showing that about $100,000 has been raised. Eric Gilbertson, field service representative for Preservation Trust of Vermont, predicts success for what he calls an unusually dedicated and hardworking group of local history buffs. And if they fail to find a home for these antiques, he says, St. Johnsbury will lose a sense of itself.
“It doesn’t happen very much in Vermont, but whether it’s buildings or artifacts or whatever, or (a town) just loses a section of its history, it kind of loses a sense of direction.”MORE IN Vermont NewsBURLINGTON — Vermont’s largest city has a new success to add to its list of socially conscious... Full Story
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: No money this year for western rail project, Lola Aiken memorialized in Montpelier, Supreme Court Castleton murder suspect will remain in jail, Shaftbury man fires shots from his AK-47 into neighbor's home.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev arrives in U.S. for historic 13-day visit; in 1987, Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze sign nuclear reduction agreement.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: City celebrates completion of its newest mural, on West Street opposite the post office, more than $2 million in federal grants will bolster Vermont's health centers, Patrick McArdle reports on pending sale of Vermont papers.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: Henry Hudson sails up the Hudson River as far as present-day Albany, Leo Szilard has epiphany waiting for the light to change, 3 kids report a West Virginia close encounter in 1952.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Who will run for mayor in Rutland next year? Has Bennington overcome its fear of twerking? Documentary 'Hungry Heart' packs the Paramount, and the city's Creek Path scores another million-plus dollars.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: The 1509 'Lesser Judgment' earthquake on this day at Constantinople kills 13,000 and destroys the city; in 1801, on this day, Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans is born.